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How Clemson Helped Virginia Tech Find Its Quarterback

Author:
Michael Brewer

Michael Brewer

If Virginia Tech gets back to the ACC Championship Game, the Hokies should thank Clemson.

More specifically, the Hokies will need to thank Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris for tipping them off to his high school quarterback.

Virginia Tech went into 2014 knowing it needed a quarterback to replace the departed Logan Thomas. The Hokies were going to enter the season with a veteran backup, a sophomore who hadn’t attempted a pass and three freshmen on an inexperienced offense.

A meeting between associate head coach Shane Beamer and Morris at the Senior Bowl provided the answer.

Morris noted that his former quarterback at Austin (Texas) Lake Travis, where Morris coached two state champions in two years, had just received his release from Texas Tech.

The quarterback had run nothing but no-huddle spread since high school and never lived outside of the state of Texas, but he was a quick study, Morris said. Beamer and quarterback coach Scot Loeffler called the QB, Michael Brewer, visited him Austin and brought him to Blacksburg, Va., for an official visit.

By March, Michael Brewer signed with Virginia Tech. By September, he gave the Hokies a signature win to establish the Hokies’ ACC title credentials.

Brewer completed 23-of-36 passes for 199 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in Columbus, giving Brewer the kind of moment he’d been seeking for three years.

“The whole time I’ve been in college football I’ve been waiting for that one chance,” Brewer said. “It was one of those deals where I’ve waited for so long for one chance, I wasn’t about to let anyone take it away from me.”

Brewer signed with Texas Tech and coach Tommy Tuberville in 2011, redshirting his first season and seeing minimal playing time his second year behind veteran Seth Doege. Tuberville then left for Cincinnati, but Brewer seemed appeared ready to take the starting job under new coach Kliff Kingsbury.

Brewer, though, suffered a fractured vertebra in his lower back that derailed his season. By the time he was healthy, Baker Mayfield and then Davis Webb eventually supplanted him as Texas Tech’s quarterback. Mayfield also transferred.

With a degree in hand, though, Brewer was eligible to play immediately upon his transfer, but Texas Tech blocked him from going to his first-choice destinations of Texas or TCU.

Virginia Tech, with help from Morris, eventually stepped up — and with little time to spare for the Hokies. Six weeks after Brewer announced his transfer to Virginia Tech, Clemson dismissed quarterback Chad Kelly, freeing up a roster spot that could have been claimed by Brewer.

“The numbers weren’t there for them at the time,” Brewer said. “We joke about that, that I could have ended up there, but he’s really happy that I’m here.”

Ending up at Virginia Tech and in an offense not steeped in the spread may be a positive for Brewer as well.

Instead, Brewer joins Loeffler, who had moved from a pro-style offense at Michigan to the spread at Florida and Auburn.

“I think this is good for Michael’s development, just like when I had the opportunity to go to Florida with coach (Urban) Meyer,” Loeffler said. “It was completely different from what I did at Michigan. It was the best experience I had in coaching. It was out of my comfort zone.”

That’s not to say it’s easy.

Brewer had only June and July to prepare in the offense before training camp, during that time NCAA restrictions limited him to an hour or two of film study with coaches during the week.

In other words, not a ton of time for a quarterback to unlearn a style of offense that Brewer has run since high school.

“We use a lot of pro terminology, pro protections and pro concepts,” Loeffler said. “We asked all the questions if he can handle it, and (Chad Morris) said he can learn.”

This has been a two-way street, though, as Virginia Tech has adopted elements of the spread to use in the shotgun so the offense isn’t completely foreign.

“They did a good job of bringing it along easy for me and doing things that I’m comfortable with in the shotgun and making things similar to what I was used to do,” Brewer said. “That’s a credit to them.”

At the same time, the offense isn’t a finished product. Brewer threw the two interceptions against Ohio State, not the best sign for a team whose last starting quarterback had 39 career picks. Brewer averaged a pedestrian 5.5 yards per play, and the offense averaged 4.2 yards per snap.

The numbers weren’t overwhelming, but he did enough for the upset in Columbus.

“His escapability was really good I thought,” Meyer said. “We had him bottled up a couple of times, and he got out of there and extended drives. He’s an accurate thrower, but the best thing he did was escape pressure.”

The bright side is that Virginia Tech’s offense is full of new faces — two freshman tailbacks, a freshman starting receiver and a highly touted tight end, Ryan Malleck, who didn’t play last season due to a shoulder injury.

The presence of a veteran quarterback with experience running no-huddle spread and an Air Raid combined with the possibilities of personnel groupings could lead to an interesting season for the Virginia Tech offense, as noted by SB Nation’s Ian Boyd in a breakdown of Loeffler’s no-huddle spread attack with pro personnel.

Virginia Tech had a feeling Brewer would be ready to tackle such a task in a short period of time. The question was if he could lead and take a hit.

The Hokies learned about both against Ohio State as Brewer was knocked around several times against the Buckeyes only to get back up.

“You learned everything you needed to learn in that Ohio State game,” Loeffler said. “Those quarterbacks take a beating in that game, and he took a beating. He came back and never flinched and never put his eyes on the rush. He learned a lot.

“Any time you’ve got a good person who’s smart and tough you’ve got a chance.”

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